South Carolina lawmakers have been been arguing about property tax reform options for much of 2006-- and with good reason. Home values are shooting up in certain parts of the state, especially coastal areas, and since South Carolina does not currently have any property tax relief measures that protect homeowners from rapid growth in property taxes, that's a real concern.
But a group called "No Home Tax" apparently thinks the only possible solution to this problem is to completely eliminate homeowner property taxes. Their latest contribution to the state's tax debate is this radio ad, which started airing earlier this week:
Sound effects: Murmurs of a press conference beginning.
Senator: OK, OK, people. Let's get this party started. First question. Go ahead now.
Female reporter: Senator, we're being told that the taxpayers of South Carolina are being financially devastated by their skyrocketing property taxes. Your thoughts?
Senator: It couldn't be that bad, could it? I haven't heard from the voters. Besides heh, heh the government needs the money, don't it honey?
Male reporter: Senator, how do you respond to working class folks who say they are going to have to sell their home because they can't afford the yearly increases?
Senator: Well, unless the voters scream bloody murder, or vote me out, this is a dead issue. I'll need to get calls, letters, e-mails and personal visits from the public before I change my stance. The people can speak up or pay up.
Female reporter: Senator, are you even listening to the voters?
Senator: It's kind of hard to when you're up to your ears in special interest money. Hey, now, wait, now hold on, don't print that.
Announcer: If you want property taxes eliminated, you must contact your state legislator today. For information, go to NoHomeTax.org. That's NoHomeTax.org. If we fight together, we'll win. Paid for by NoHomeTax.org, Emerson Read, chairman.
You can listen to it here.
In surveys, property taxes regularly rank among the least popular ways of raising revenue. And there are good historical reasons for this:
- poor administration;
- a disproportionate impact on the poor;
- arbitrary "tax cap" rules that discriminate between otherwise identical homeowners based on how long they've owned their homes;
- the lack of a linkage between your tax bill and your ability to pay it, which can lead to tax hikes on the fixed-income seniors who can afford it least.
Repealing a tax is certainly a simple solution to any complicated tax policy problem. But, as South Carolina Senator Larry Grooms noted last week, "I like simple. I love simple. But when simple won't work, you can't have simple."